“The supreme question about a work of art is out of how deep a life does it spring”: First Edition of Ulysses; One of 750 Numbered Copies
Item Number: 92994
Paris: Shakespeare & Company, 1922.
First edition, one of 750 numbered copies on handmade paper from a total edition of 1000 copies, this is number number 347. Thick quarto, original blue and white wrappers. In excellent condition, the volume is square and tight, without marks of any kind, with some some restoration to the spine. Housed in a custom half morocco clamshell box. A nice example.
Ulysses was published in Paris by Shakespeare & Company, 1922. It was a struggle for the author to find a publisher, a comic irony considering that Ulysses is "[u]niversally hailed as the most influential work of modern times" (Grolier Joyce 69). Ulysses was an immediate success. The first printing sold out, and "within a year Joyce had become a well-known literary figure. Ulysses was explosive in its impact on the literary world of 1922" (de Grazia, 27). Even so, the book faced difficulties in global reception. It was banned in the U.K. and was prosecuted for the obscenity in the Nausicaa episode (Ellmann, 1982). Joyce's inspiration for the novel began as a young boy reading Charles Lamb's Adventures of Ulysses and writing an essay entitled "My Favorite Hero" after being impressed by the wholeness of the character (Goreman, 1939). The idea for the novel grew from a story in Dubliners in 1906, which Joyce expanded into a short book in 1907, before reconceptualizing it as the heady novel in 1914 (Ellmann, 1982). The book can initially seem unstructured and chaotic, and Joyce admitted that he "put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant" (The Observer, 2000). The French translator Stuart Gilbert published a defense of Ulysses shortly after its publication in which he supported the novel's use of obscenity and explained its internal structure and links to the Odyssey against accusations of ambiguity. Every episode, Gilbert explained, is connected to the Odyssey by theme, technique, and correspondence between characters. Another instance of Ulysses' literary contribution is his use of stream-of-consciousness, a technique employing carefully structured prose, both humorous and charactering, and involving puns and parodies. Joyce was a precursor to the use of stream of consciousness in the later decades. Similar narrative techniques were used by his contemporaries Virginia Wolfe, William Faulkner, and Italo Svevo. Their style can be better characterized as an "interior monologue, rather than stream of consciousness, is the appropriate term for the style in which [subjective experience] is recorded, both in The Waves and in Woolf's writing generally" (Stevenson, 1992).